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Tree tops in a forest. The truth about tree planting projects.

The Truth About
Tree Planting Projects

A long-form, educational blog post for Circular Stories.

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Chances are you've encountered it before – that little checkbox beside your purchase or flight booking, inviting you to 'Plant a tree.' With a small additional fee, the company promises to plant a tree and thereby offset your CO2 emissions. Voilà! Your carbon footprint shrinks, your eco-guilt eases, and you continue life's journey as the conscientious earth advocate you are.

But how do these schemes actually work? Are all tree planting projects as beneficial as they seem? In this article, with the help of MOYU, we’ll take a look at the world of tree planting projects and unearth some vital info. As a passionate team of paper saving innovators, they know their stuff when it comes to tree planting and sustainability.

Understanding the Vital Role of Trees

Incase you can’t remember this lesson from school, let’s review why trees of paramount importance to our planet:

They absorb CO2 and releasing life-sustaining oxygen – an essential process for all living beings.

In addition to this, forests serve as a home for many animals, plants and flower species. Without forests, local biodiversity in these areas will decline dramatically, ultimately leading to the depletion of global biodiversity and a collapsed ecosystem.

Without trees, it is impossible to have a healthy, biodiverse, liveable, world. Every minute, roughly 30 football fields of forest are cut down worldwide. If we continue at this rate, there won’t be a single forest or rainforest left on earth in 80 years' time.

The trunk of a tree. Sustainability.

Tree Felling

Watercolor Brush vector for Element Copy

So why are so many forests being cut down and cleared?


  • Agriculture

  • Soy and palm oil

  • Paper


Within the agricultural industry, it’s common to see only one plant species grown on one piece of land. Soy and palm are of no exception. These monocultures are extremely unsustainable as they deplete the soil and are only profitable for a few years before the soil is too damaged.


When it comes to manufacturing paper, the wood is often used only once and then thrown away. Paper can be recycled up to 7 times, but even recycling paper requires fresh wood fibres so 100% recyclable paper remains a misnomer.

‘100% recyclable paper does not exist’

Trees for Kenya - tree planting - sustainability

Can we just Plant More Trees?

Sadly, no. Many tree planting projects are not unfair, ineffective and even unsustainable. Here’s why:


Quantity Over Quality

Governments and companies often focus on the number of trees planted, not the quality. When you are paid for the number of trees planted, more is – more.

These large figures can be flaunted in marketing campaigns and sustainability reports, concealing the pitfalls of monoculture. Usually, only one type of tree is planted, causing a negative impact on the flora, fauna and life of the forest. By planting vast numbers of the same species, tree planting projects disrupt local ecosystems and give rise to greenwashing and misleading claims of sustainability.

The Wrong Trees

Even diverse tree planting can go awry if inappropriate species are chosen - like pine trees in tropical regions for example.

When (re)planting trees, it is extremely important that only the correct native trees are introduced. These trees occur naturally in the area and contribute positively to the biodiversity.

Acquiring Land from Farmers

Farmers may lose their once-fertile lands and livelihoods once soil fertility wanes. If these abandoned lands turn into tree planting projects, farmers bear the brunt – losing income and property.

Sadly, once the land is depleted and no longer profitable, the farmer can lose their (once fertile) land and income.

If the abandoned land is then re-purposed for a tree planting project, farmers bear the brunt and suffer financially in the process.

Lack of Management

Effective forest management is essential. Planting trees without follow-up care leads to exploitation by locals and a lack of protection.

How do you Spot a ‘Good’ Tree Planting Project

Read the fine print and be critical when a company claims to collaborate with a tree planting organisation.

A successful tree planting project should:

  • Plant the right trees - Indigenous species enriching local ecosystems.

  • Consider diversity - Planting a mix of tree types to evade monoculture.

  • Aid farmers and communities - Protecting the income of farmers and land owners.

  • Protect and manage the trees - Preventing illegal logging.

Pine tree forest - the vital role of trees

Is Agroforestry a Sustainable Alternative?

Agroforestry plants trees with eventual economic value, safeguarding them. These trees are often planted within a community, who have a vested interest in their protection. The trees provide food or can eventually be sold. These trees, intertwined with crops, strengthen soil and community resilience against environmental challenges.

GPS for Tree Planting Projects?

Some projects use GPS technology to track trees, enhancing transparency and accountability. However, GPS-linked projects may escalate costs which should be taken into consideration.

Other Sustainable Alternatives

Beyond tree planting, there are other things you can do to combat tree felling and make eco-conscious decisions.


  • Prioritise local produce, nurturing local economies.

  • Lean towards plant-based meals and avoiding meat when possible.

  • Explore tree-free stone paper like MOYU’s rewritable notebook. Made from sustainable stone paper!

A Sustainable Tomorrow

A just, impactful tree planting endeavour restores ecosystems. To ensure your contribution shapes a sustainable future, scrutinise the initiatives you support. Let's ensure our choices today reverberate positively for the world of tomorrow.

Tree's for Kenya worker - Circular Stories
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